Chips are down for government's supercasino plans

By staff writers
March 29, 2007

Lobbying by Christians appeared to pay off last night with a defeat for the government's plan to build a Las Vegas style 'supercasino' in Manchester.

The plans were rejected by the House of Lords by just three votes - 123-120 - in Parliament's upper chamber.

The plans had also called for 16 smaller casinos across Britain.

Peers backed an amendment by Liberal Democrat Lord Clement-Jones declining to approve the Gambling Order and calling for a joint committee of the Lords and the Commons to look again at the decision making process.

The Government did however prevail in the Commons - but only after heavy whipping and a prime ministerial summit with the rebels.

But the vote in the House of Lords means the government's plans will have to be redrafted.

"Ministers will want to reflect on this and come to the House in due course with proposals as to how we will take this policy forward," Tessa Jowell, the minister in charge of the plans, told parliament.

An independent panel's choice of Manchester, a city of 440,000 about 315 kilometres north-west of London, was contentious.

Critics also raised objections over placing a casino in a deprived area of Manchester.

The Faith Network for Manchester (FN4M), a forum that unites people from all faith communities across the city, published an Open Letter, opposing the location of the proposed super casino.

"We are concerned that the people of Manchester are to be used in a huge social experiment to test the effect of a super-casino on a community" they said in a statement.

The Salvation Army and the Methodist Church also re-stated their concerns relating to increased gambling opportunities, particularly the potentially devastating effects on the vulnerable.

Britain relaxed gaming laws in 2005, saying it planned to use new casinos to boost economies in areas with high unemployment.

Britain already has around 140 small and medium sized casinos, mainly based in major towns and cities.

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